Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Chapter Eighty Part One

A/N: Originally the rest of Christmas and New Year's EVE was all going in one post. But the chapter got ridiculously long and I felt like I should split it. You'll get this part tonight (the rest of Christmas) and then the New Year's Eve celebration tomorrow. This part tonight is really just kind of fluffy stuff so I hope it doesn't bore you to tears. Let me know what you think!


The snow that had begun to fall on Christmas Eve continued on intermittently through Christmas Day and into the evening. But by the time that Boxing Day dawned, it had stopped and the Sun was shining bright in the sky, warming it up enough to melt some of the snow and making the roads to Alex’s parents house easier to clear for their drive in.

They ate breakfast with Harry’s family, enjoyed a bit more time with everyone, and then, after packing up their things and loading them into the cars, they settled in for the nearly three hour drive to the Berkshire home of the Emersons.

“Do you think Gus misses us?” Emma called from the backseat about an hour and a half into their drive.

“Of course,” Alex replied, smiling as she turned around to look at her daughter. “But I’m sure he’s having a blast with Zuko.”

“Did it snow at Mimi and Poppy’s house too? Do you think that Zuko and Gus played in the snow? What about Cooper?” Emma continued her line of questioning.

“I think it snowed there too,” Alex said, turning to Harry who smiled and shrugged, not knowing for sure either. “Well, if it did snow, I’m sure Mimi and Poppy let the dogs out to play in it. Cooper’s too young to go out by himself though,” Alex reminded her daughter. “He can’t walk yet.”

“Oh yeahhhh,” Emma drawled as her legs bounced up and down and she shifted in her seat. Alex clearly recognized the movement as a sign of boredom.

“Alright, who’s up for a game?” Alex asked. It piqued both Emma and Harry’s interest immediately and Alex couldn’t help the slight laugh that left her lips. They were really so incredibly similar.

“What game, Mum?” Emma called out, sitting forward in her seat.

“What about...the Picnic Game?”

“What’s that?” Harry asked, though he kept his eyes forward on the road as he navigated a turn in the highway.

“Oh! I know what it is!” Emma nearly bounced in her seat. “The first person says, ‘I went to a picnic and I brought a…’ and they name something that starts with the letter ‘A’. The next person has to say, ‘I went to a picnic and I brought a…’ and they name the ‘A’ thing and something that starts with the letter ‘B’.”

“You go through the entire alphabet,” Alex added with a grin. “Emma and I used to play whenever we would fly to Texas to visit Mom and Dad.”

“I’ll start and Daddy can go second and Mummy you go after that, okay?” Emma clapped her hands together, drawing chuckling agreements from both Alex and Harry.

“Okay,” Emma drew herself up, her back straight as seriousness washed over her. “I went to a picnic and I brought an apple…”


By the time they had arrived at the Emerson’s home an hour and a half later, the Picnic Game was nowhere near finished, having only ever made it to the letter ‘J’ before one of the three of them lost track and the other two dissolved into fits of laughter. But it had made the time pass and all three of them had big smiles on their faces as Harry pulled the car to a stop in front of the big, sprawling house in the country.

It appeared that it had, in fact, snowed there as well. The ground and the roof of the house was still covered in a thick blanket of white, though the driveway and walk up to the front door had been cleared.

They had barely stepped from the car when that very same front door pulled open and Donna appeared in the doorway with that big, bright smile that was so very much like Alex’s.

“Merry Christmas!” she called out as she moved briskly down the path, followed shortly by Mike and both Zuko and Gus, bounding out and wanting to greet everyone as well.

Harry felt that sense of ease and normality that always came with being at the Emerson home wash over him as Donna’s arms folded him into tight, warm hug. He moved to shake Mike’s hand and wish him a Merry Christmas as Donna hugged and kissed the girls. Before he knew it, instructions had been given to the P.O. officers that had tailed them in the other Range Rover, their bags were being unloaded from the cars once again, and they were being ushered inside to the warm, comfortable house.

“Wait,” Alex frowned as she removed Emma’s jacket, hung it up, and then went to work on her own. “Where are Matt and Charlotte?”

“They’ll be here shortly,” Mike offered with a shrug. “Apparently Charlotte had quite a time extracting Cooper from her mother this morning so they could leave and head here.”

“That’s so weird,” Harry chuckled, shaking his head. “Mrs. Blakely, the doting Grandmother.”

“Well, who wouldn’t love Cooper?” Alex sighed.

And then, as if on cue, the sound of another set of tires crunching on the gravel driveway sounded out, signaling the arrival of Matt and Charlotte and of course, little baby Cooper.


“I seriously can’t get over how much he looks like you, Matt,” Alex said softly, her eyes trained on the little boy making a mess with all the wrapping paper from the presents they had all opened earlier. “Even that wild hair of his is all you.”

Matt chuckled and reached for Cooper just as his son was making a grab for a low hanging tree ornament. He turned him around and grabbed another discarded piece of wrapping paper, diverting Cooper’s attention and earning an adorably happy baby squeal. “I know. And that’s even after Charlotte tames it down.”

Charlotte snickered. “You should see the two of them first thing in the morning though...blonde hair sticking up in all directions. That bleary, slightly confused not-quite-awake look they both have. It’s hilarious.”

“Oh, I know that look well,” Donna said with a nostalgic smile. “Matt and Alex both have it. And the original owner of that look is right there.” She nodded toward Mike, sitting next to her on the couch.

“Well sure,” Mike chuckled and shrugged. “Though you know that look only lasts all of five minutes. Well for me and Matt anyway. Alex was always the one who struggled to get up in the morning. Even when she was really young.”

“Ha!” A burst of laughter left Harry’s lips and shook his head. “She still does..”

“Hey!” Alex’s eyes widened. “I get up just fine in the morning.”

Harry lifted his brows and smirked at her. “Really? Because I had to bribe you out of bed with coffee and a chocolate biscuit this morning,”

“A chocolate biscuit,” Matt pulled a face. “Gross.”

“He means a cookie,” Charlotte snickered. “Not those weird pastry things you call biscuits.”

“It’s not a pastry,” Matt sighed. “It’s know what, nevermind. Let’s not go down that road.”

“Alex was always my sleepy kid,” Donna laughed, bringing them back on topic. “Even Christmas wasn’t enough to get her out of bed without a struggle some years.”

“I wake up pretty fast in the mornings!” Emma joined in, looking up from the new books she had gotten for Christmas.

“You do,” Alex nodded. “As long as you go to bed on time, it’s never been a struggle to get you up. You take after your Uncle Matt and your Poppy there. I know you didn’t get that from me or your dad. John, I mean,” she added at the end, glancing at Harry with a small smile.

But Harry just smiled in return. “He wasn’t an early riser either? Not even being in the Army?”

“No,” Alex laughed and shook her head, her memories drifting backwards for a moment. “That was a struggle for him for sure.”

Harry smiled softly and took her hand, his fingers running slowly over hers, silently letting her know that it was always okay to talk about Emma’s father, that he understood the tinge of sadness she would always have that John never got to spend this holiday with his daughter, even if she knew that Harry being there with them was how it was meant to be.

After a moment, it Matt’s low, warm chuckle pulled her attention back to the present. “Remember when I used to drive us to school in the morning, Boot? You would just fall asleep with your head against the window and mumble at me to shut up whenever I tried to talk to you.”

“Oh come on,” Alex rolled her eyes and relaxed back into laughter with those around her. “It’s not like I was any different from the normal teenager. Not all of us can have Matt’s boundless energy.” She’d barely finished her sentence when her nephew chose that moment to let out a squeal and rip apart a rather large section of wrapping paper before dissolving into a heap of adorable baby giggles. “Of course,” Alex giggled along with him and moved to the floor from the couch she was sitting on. “Okay Cooper, I’m coming to play with you since the adults are all picking on me.”


It was late into the evening when Alex found herself alone in the living room. Harry had gone to check that Emma was in bed and actually sleeping like she was supposed to be, Matt and Charlotte had crashed after they put Cooper down, and her parents were in the kitchen putting away the dishes for dinner. She sighed in total contentment as she surveyed the room around her. There were shreds of wrapping paper everywhere, several stacks of opened boxes, and various piles of the presents that had been in those boxes in different places around the room. Her own pile of presents was stacked on the coffee table in front of her, right near where her feet rested.

“Hey love…”

Alex’s lips tipped slowly upward as her head tipped back, finding Harry standing behind her, looking down on her with a soft smile. “Hey yourself.”

“What are you doing?”

Alex laughed softly and waved her hand around the room. “Surveying the damage. It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

Harry chuckled and nodded, finding himself loving the chaos of the room amidst the beautiful tree and decorations. “Do we need to clean up a bit?”

“Naw,” Alex shook her head and looked back up at him. “We generally leave it until the next day. Kind of a silly tradition, but it’s what we do.”

“I like it,” Harry said with a shrug.

Alex smirked. “You want to come sit with me, Sussex? Or are you going to stand there all night?”

“Actually,” he grinned and leaned down to kiss her softly. “Gus needs to go out and I’m sure Zuko will want to go too. I thought maybe we could take a walk with them? It’s snowing again.”

“Sure,” Alex nodded, her face lighting up at the suggestion. “I’d love that.”

They bundled up in their coats, scarves, hats, gloves, and boots and then after securing the dogs their leashes and telling her parents what they were doing, they headed out the back door of the house, with two protection officers in tow of course, trailing them from a ways behind.

“Goodness, it really is snowing,” Alex breathed, holding on tight to Gus’s leash with one hand while she pulled her knit cap down further over her ears with the other. The snow was still almost a soft, powdery substance under their feet as they walked, following the path that led out to the little country lane that ran by one side of the property.

“It really is,” Harry chuckled. “And it’s bloody freezing.”

“Says the man who treked the North Pole,” Alex teased, bumping his arm with her shoulder.

“Ha!” Harry laughed, his breath puffing out white into the night air. “Fair point.”

“Mhmm…” Alex smiled over at him with a nod of her head.

They walked along in silence for a few moments, letting the dogs set their pace and then pulling them along when they caught a whiff of something and tried to go off course.

“Tell me, my love...did you have a good Christmas?” Harry finally spoke, his eyes hopeful as he glanced towards her.

“Oh Harry, I had a wonderful Christmas,” she answered with bright eyes and cheeks pink from the cold. “Honestly, probably the best I’ve ever had.”

“Yeah?” Harry smiled wide, obviously pleased to hear her say so. “I’d say it was my favorite Christmas for sure.”

Alex grinned, happy to hear the same from him. “Really?”

“Of course, love. You know it was.”

Alex sighed happily. “Tell me, what was your second favorite Christmas?”

Harry’s eyes moved off into the distance as he thought about it, as he pulled up years worth of memories in his mind. The dogs had gotten past their wild excitement at being outside and they seemed to settle into the walk just as Harry settled into the one memory that seemed to hold place above all others, and their pace slowed a bit.

“When I was six and William was eight, he was being a complete shit one year right before Christmas and told me that Santa Claus wasn’t real,” he turned to Alex with a shrug. “And I took it really personally.”

“Oh no,” Alex giggled. “Why do older siblings do that? Matt ruined it for me too.”

“I have no idea,” Harry replied with a chuckle. “But I was so pissed at him for lying to me, because I knew that Santa was real and that year, I made it my mission to prove it.” He paused and reached for Alex’s hand, wrapping his gloved fingers around hers while still holding tight to Zuko’s leash with his other hand. “I decided to stay up and then sneak down into the drawing room after all the adults went to bed on Christmas Eve, and wait for Santa Claus to show up.”

“Oh yeah?” Alex smiled warmly at the thought, at the image of Harry as a little kid, clad in pajamas as he tried to sneak stealthily down into the drawing room. “And how did that work out?”

“Oh my mother caught me before I even made it halfway down the staircase,” Harry laughed and shook his head.

“What did she say?” she asked, absolutely caught up in his story. She loved when he talked about his mother, the way his face looked as he remembered the many happy times they’d had together.

“Well, as soon as I admitted what I was doing, she stood straight up, took my hand, and told me that she was going to help me set a trap to catch Santa.”

“Awww, what an amazing thing to do,” Alex sighed, feeling her heart swell at how much the gesture must have meant to Harry. “What kind of trap did she help you set?”

A low, rumbling laugh moved through Harry. “Well first, we snuck into the kitchen and she stole a handful of cookies and a glass of milk.”

“To tempt Santa?” Alex smiled knowingly.

“Exactly. And then in the drawing room, she pulled a chair up behind one of the sofas, draped a blanket across the top of them both to create a little fort for us.” He let out a breath and turned his gaze down to hers. “She crawled under there with me, pulled me into her lap, and said that we would wait as long for Father Christmas to show up as it took. And then I promptly fell asleep right there in her lap. Just like she knew I would.”

Alex giggled and then let out a sigh as she tucked herself closer into his side. “That’s so sweet, Harry. I’ll bet you didn’t even mind missing Santa.”

“Not at all,” Harry agreed happily as they rounded a corner on the path and the Emerson home came into view. “Especially since I had a note from Father Christmas himself waiting on my pillow when I woke up, telling me how he was sorry he missed me, but that he hoped I liked the presents he left for me.”

Surprised laughter fell from Alex’s lips. “What?!”

“Mum had a staff member write it I think,” Harry winked down at her.

“Ahhh,” Alex nodded. “And let me guess, you made sure William saw that note.”

“Oh, absolutely,” Harry grinned.

Alex snickered. “In your face, William.”

“Ha! Pretty much. I definitely gloated for a long time on that one.”

“I don’t doubt it,” she shook her head and then turned to smile up at him as they moved up the walk, the snow crunching under their feet. “Thank you for telling me that story, Harry. I love hearing about your mother.”

He nodded and bent to kiss her. “And I love to tell you about her.” He kissed her once more. Her lips were warm, despite the chill around them. “Come on love, let’s go inside. You can warm me up.”

“Ohhhh…” Her lips curled up against his. “And how exactly do you suggest I do that?”

Harry’s grin was completely cheeky as he moved to open the back door and let the dogs in before they stepped inside after them. “I don’t know, but it definitely involves less snow and less clothing than what’s going on right now.”